081223 Thaikarl - beneath the snows of seattle


i'm still in seattle. the past two weeks we've had snow, cold, more snow, cold, more snow, and now they are saying, even more snow.  my thought on the subject can be summed up in the famous words:  "bah, humbug!"  I won't bore you with complaints.  i did make a vow to myself, as i was trudging thru the snow coming back from parking my car, that i will not spend another winter in a cold place.

on the other side of the world, thailand, and Tok, mama and tere and every thing i love there is still moving right along.  i feel like a goalie on the wrong hockey team, madly fighting of swarms of players on this side of the ice, but the net i'd rather be standing in front of is way across the blue line of the pacific.  wow, i just used a sports metaphor.  i rarely do that.

i've had a couple of good runs of good work the last few months.  earned enough to get caught up on my expenses, and send enough overseas to finally get sealer on our bedroom house, have a reserve in the bank for payments on the house in Ban Chang, and provide for the family comfortably.  Now i'm able to actually consider a trip back home.

Tok's 44th birthday was november 21.  she never asks for anything, i had to ask several times for ideas.  she finally said she'd like a new motorbike.  the one she has now is 15 years old.  still works, but it's showing it's age, and if it breaks seriously, she's going have a big problem, as it's the major transportation to the market and everywhere else.  so with a generous matching gift from my dad and his wife, i sent her enough to purchase a nearly new motorbike- perhaps a year old, with warranty.  then mama started showing some health problems.  mama is about 75, and i didn't know it, but she has only one kidney.  they removed the other one because of kidney stones some time ago, and it appears that her remaining kidney is acting up.  we're not certain what the situation is, there are further diagnostic appointments coming up in the next few months, but Tok decided to put the motorbike money aside, in case mama has to have special tests and treatments in the near future.  they don't have anything like health insurance.  the government subsidies the health care, and compared to here, even major treatments for illness cost very little, but it is still an expense we have to account for.  mama is doing okay at the moment, they have her on some medications that are helping the symptoms, so it's a 'wait and see' thing.

Tok seemed pretty worried at first, but then she perked up, saying "I am Iron Woman"  which is a little joke we had going a while ago.  then she said "but sometimes i am Paper Women."  so, she is pretty self-aware of handling the situation.  Mama's medical issues presented me with an interesting ethical question.  given this very simplified sequence of events:  say that mama's kidney is failing.  she will need dialysis or a transplant.  transplant is not an option.  dialysis costs $150.00 per visit.  say she needs it once a month to start, but over time, the frequency of need increases, twice a month, every week etc.  since i am pretty much the sole support of the family, and mama is under my care, i will be covering the costs.  so i'm thinking, an extra $150 a month i can handle pretty easy, $300 a month is stretching it, $600 a month is beyond my present means.  so, at some point i have to in effect say "sorry, we can't pay for anymore treatments".  and she'll die.  note that this is a simplified scenario, we don't know if her kidney is truly failing, and that the treatment will escalate as i laid it out, but bear with me.  in the west we have the "keep people alive at any cost" ethic, bankrupt the family, burn up every ones insurance dollars, do absolutely everything you can to keep a person living as long as possible, while you still can.  but i wondered what the thai ethic about this was.  i asked tok.  first she asked if i meant what would rich thai people do? i said no, i mean us.  she said that basically, you do what you can, and that's it.  she told me the thai word for it. it sounds like you do what is practical, spend what money you can afford without depleting the lives of others, and let it go from there.  which makes sense, since they generally see death as a transition from this life to the next, it's not THE END.  Tok told me she discussed what to do with mama, and mama said that we shouldn't spend all our money on treatments, because we wouldn't have anything left for a funeral - which costs about $2000.  the funeral is important, because it prepares the stage for meeting your ancestors, and it celebrates your life this time around.  at least that is my best interpretation of the event.

so we'll continue, see what happens, and deal with it when it comes up.

meanwhile, it's snowing. again.  oh yeah, and it'll be Xmas next tomorrow.  hope it's a good one for ya.

onward!  Nu